The air in the board meeting room was so thick and humid Wednesday night it was almost sticky, and it wasn’t because of the weather. People jammed the place — and the overflow room upstairs — to speak on one of many, many matters.
I didn’t stay until after 2 a.m., when the meeting finally wrapped up, but one of the things that struck me from the first five hours of the meeting was the principal theme that emerged.
Dozens of people — parents, teachers, neighbors, and even City Councilwoman Desley Brooks — urged the board to keep Al Sye, the popular new Skyline High School principal who received a layoff notice this month after an investigation into the complaints of several staff members. There was also a supportive contingent from Maxwell Park, a newly redesigned/reopened elementary school whose principal, Mary-Louise Newling, got the same dreaded release letter, to staff’s dismay.
And then there was something you don’t see too often: a whole crew of teachers speaking out publicly against their principal. Teachers from CBIT, the Castlemont Business Information & Technology School, gave the board a letter – apparently signed by 80 percent of the school’s staff — with a litany of academic, safety and management problems they say they have experienced under the leadership of Susan Ryan, the new principal.
In all, five Oakland principals learned this month that they had likely lost their jobs (as of June 30), said Jo Anna Lougin, executive director of the Oakland principals union, United Administrators of Oakland Schools. That includes Sye, Newling, Rachelle Sallee (Tilden), Michael Rothhammer (Garfield), and Ifeoma Obodozie (Joaquin Miller).
Lougin said this was the first year she could remember in which principals received final release notices in March, rather than in May. Typically at this time of year they get warnings of potential layoffs, or pink slips, like other district employees, she said. But this year, Lougin said, these principals have already been told that they’re out — but not until June 30, three months (and an entire high-stakes testing cycle) from now.
That doesn’t make sense, Lougin said. “They still have to run a school.”
What do you think?